Daily Devotion 31 December 2020

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11 ‘Epiphany Gifts’

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage”. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We have a friend whose seasonal greeting card always arrives around January 6th. ‘Better late than never’ you may think. However, Erica’s card is always on time because she chooses to especially mark Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world. The gospel reading associated with Epiphany is Matthew’s metaphorical narrative in which the mystical and mysterious magi seek out the Christ child. They represent the nations of the world.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh are the symbolic costly gifts of the magi. Gold was the gift for a king and frankincense represented a life of prayerful devotion. Myrrh was used for the embalming of the dead and so was a pointer to Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. These gifts highlight the essence of Christ’s life and ministry. They remind us that Christ’s kingship was unique. He came among us as a ‘suffering servant’, whose life was infused by prayer.

At this hinge point of a new year, we can both look back and look forward, using the gifts of the magi as ‘pegs’ on which to hang our reflections. So what about our gold, frankincense and myrrh moments this past year? Is it possible to regard them as ‘gifts’? 2020 has been a traumatic year, yet for most of us there will have been some moments of pure gold that we treasure and for which we give thanks. Of course, for many there was the pain of stress, isolation, illness, death and bereavement – the myrrh experiences. At such times, the prayerful support of others, including Emmanuel’s prayer chain will have strengthened us. Likewise, imaginative worship at Emmanuel (latterly on video or Zoom) will have been appreciated – our frankincense!

As we contemplate what lies ahead in 2021 we know that for all of us there will be gold, frankincense and myrrh experiences. The ‘gold’ of a vaccine promises a new beginning and how grateful we are for the research of the dedicated scientists. Hopefully there will be more golden moments when we are able to meet up with family and friends once more and safely worship together at Emmanuel. We can also realistically expect some more times of stress, suffering, sadness or grief. Yet, whatever may lie ahead we know as Christians that our devotional life can help to provide us with the sustenance that we need. These ‘frankincense’ attributes can manifest Christ to us in both our joys and our sorrows. They can also turn our attention towards a world in so much need of a manifested Christ and his ‘up-side-down’ kingdom of self-giving service. So as we look back on 2020 and forward to 2021, may we offer up the treasures of our life experiences – some of which may be especially costly, knowing that all our offerings will be received and blessed with grace.

from ‘As with Gladness Men of Old’ by William Chatterton Dix (1837-98)

As they offered gifts most rare at thy cradle rude and bare,
so may we with holy joy, pure, and free from sin’s alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to thee, our heavenly King.

Reflection & Prayer © 2020 Gordon Harrison.
Image freely available online.

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All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356